Philadelphia, PA – Most media first drives we’re fortunate enough to do are extremely straightforward. You fly (or drive) to a predestined destination, set up camp for the ensuing one or two nights, have dinner, and head to bed for the night. In the morning, you’re given breakfast, a product presentation about the car(s) you’re there to see, and sent off on a predetermined drive route with a driving buddy. Chevrolet acknowledges that the Camaro is a bit different from their more mainstream offerings, and what better way to introduce the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS than with just as unique a drive experience?
And this reasoning is exactly how the #FindNewRoads road trip experience began. We had our pick of over twenty(!) different drive routes, as the Camaro drive would be taking place through all 48 states. Our wave was a scenic drive from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Raleigh, North Carolina. Emphasizing typical road trip features such as games, snacks, and points of interest along the way, Chevrolet sent us off with a stunning white 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS loaded to the gills on a 700+km journey.
Onto the car; the fifth-generation Camaro (2010-2015) was hugely successful, so GM had a great platform to start with. The new model offers a more dramatic design, more modern technology, and of course, a huge performance increase. The platform underpinning the new Camaro is GM’s Alpha platform, which is also the basis for the Cadillac ATS. Keen readers will remember just how good the ATS’ chassis is, and how it’s the liveliest car in its segment – this can only bode well for the Camaro.
The new Camaro boasts better aerodynamics than the outgoing model. The sculpted exterior is meticulously honed in a wind tunnel setting for optimal sleekness while staying within two inches of the outgoing car in every exterior dimension. It has also been lightened for every model, with weight reductions between 200 and 300 lbs. Even the suspension bolts have been reduced by millimeters in order to save weight. Chassis stiffness has been increased over 28% over the last Camaro, with over nine million computational hours spent perfecting the chassis for the new Camaro. There is unique software identifying the road schedule and adjusting the chassis accordingly.
Interiors have always been a weak point for GM, but recent models are going a long way to change that reputation. The new Camaro has borrowed some cockpit cues from the C7 Corvette Stingray, including the drive mode selector, far more focus on ergonomics, and of course, higher quality materials used throughout the cabin. The result is an interior that’s a far more comfortable place to be while boasting more technology that has previously never been available on Camaro.
Three powertrains are available on the Camaro. There’s a new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, the volume seller will be the all-new direct-injected 3.6L V6, but since the muscle car gods had us in their “good luck” notebooks for this event, we ended up in the completely redesigned 6.2L LT1 V8. The LT1 also has direct injection now, and the small block makes for a proper muscle car. The Camaro is good for 455 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque. The latest automatic transmission is an in-house eight-speed automatic, but again, our enthusiast readers will be happy to note that this test consisted of the new six-speed manual.
Even in the muscle car segment, automatic transmissions still outsell their manual counterparts in every configuration. The outgoing Camaro’s stick was clunky and the clutch was far too heavy. This model changes the “tradition” that muscle cars have poor gearboxes. The clutch is still on the heavier side but it has a definitive bite point and is a pleasure to use, even in the rush hour traffic we experienced during our drive through Washington, D.C. Throws on the shifter are light and effortless. Just like in the Corvette Stingray, the Camaro gets automatic rev-matching technology. This feature is activated/deactivated via the paddles on the back of the steering wheel. Naturally, automatic transmission models get actual paddle shifters here, but this repurposing of the controls means Chevrolet doesn’t need two separate steering wheels for auto and manual models.
On to the power of the car – holy hell on four wheels. If the devil owned a car, it would be a Camaro SS with the dual stage exhaust (an extra $1000) and the manual transmission. Power delivery is sublime; this car pounces to any desired speed immediately. If you really hammer on the throttle, the stability control system will kick in instantly, because the Camaro’s instinct is to spin tires right through first and second gears. Highway merges and open rural roads are second nature to the car, and at no point does it feel thirsty for more oomph from the V8.
The noise is such a wonderful thing, too. While the turbocharged four-cylinder model uses some fancy software to pipe additional sound into the cabin, the V8 with the dual stage exhaust is as au-naturel as it gets in the year 2016. This Camaro has a bark that stands up nicely to its bite, a combination that exceeds that of the Challenger Scat Pack as well as the Mustang GT. The only two muscle cars that will give the Camaro’s noise a run for its money are the 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat and the upcoming Shelby GT350.
In the past, muscle cars were all about straight-line power, with no emphasis on either handling or stopping. Recent years have led to changes in this regard from all three major muscle car manufacturers, and Chevrolet is no exception to this rule. Our 2SS tester was equipped with Brembo brakes that brought the coupe to a stop quickly enough to pull your face muscles forward. Additionally, GM’s renowned Magnetic Ride Control suspension is now available on the Camaro SS, a first for non-ZL1 models. The active dampers of the MRC system are able of analyzing road conditions as well as driver inputs over 1,000 times per second, allowing for precision previously unheard of in this segment.
The new Camaro makes you think twice about a lot of things. Another popular criticism of the muscle car segment is that interiors are properly terrible, both in design as well as execution with regards to fit and finish. Chevrolet has taken this complaint very seriously and completely redone the interior in the new Camaro. The cabin is now an unusually comfortable place to spend extended periods. MyLink infotainment with a large touchscreen as well as a configurable screen within the instrument cluster takes up the majority of the interior, and all surfaces feel high quality. There were some panel gaps on the dashboard that were a bit unsightly, but I’m willing to chalk that off to our particular tester being a very early production model.
Another very important feature implemented on the new Camaro is Apple CarPlay and full suite of modern day connectivity. Like in other examples we have tested from other manufacturers, CarPlay allows for seamless integration of your compatible iPhone with the car’s touchscreen, allowing you to use the phone’s native messaging, calling, maps, music, podcasts, and a slew of other apps. An added bonus here over other manufacturers’ offering of CarPlay is the fact that GM cars feature built-in 4G-LTE WiFi hotspots, which means that (if the subscription is added), you won’t be burning through your phone’s data allowance to use all of these apps.
I did this drive with one of our best photographers, who is also a Camaro nut through and through. He owns a 2010 SS and a 1996 Z/28, and tried his best to convert me over the course of our drive. I’m happy to say that the entire time I was rambling on about how much I loved the new car’s road manners and driving dynamics – not to mention the symphony from the exhaust each time we did a perfect rev-matched downshift. The new car does have a few flaws, such as limited visibility through the small windows, and the addition of an electronic parking brake. The seats are geared towards comfort rather than sportiness, so I would have liked to see a little bit more side bolstering and adjustability.
The Chevrolet Camaro is an American legend. Within the DoubleClutch.ca team alone, we now have five of them. Our rather large Camaro family of five ranges from 1983 to 2010, with one of our team members having expressed serious interest in ordering the new model. What the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro brings to the table is a natural evolution of the iconic styling, with the added touch of incredible driving dynamics, modern safety features, and the ability to effortlessly go around corners. The really impressive thing is – they’ve managed to do all of this without making the car feel softer in any way. Kudos, Chevy – I will have mine in a sinister black.
First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Gallery